When we build a mentoring relationship, the way we show up for the other person can empower them to find their voice or it can unintentionally stifle their authentic expression. What does it take to create a space where another person, an adult man or a teenage boy, can dig deep and speak their own truth without the fear of being judged or being “told what to do?” What does it mean to really be there for and with a teenage boy? What can we do to invite him to discover and become the man he wants to be?

The Boys to Men Mentoring Network, which offers group mentoring programs for boys ages 12 to 17, has devised a simple yet elegant communication model that is at the heart of the mentoring relationship. Mentors and teens are taught to communicate consciously, using a model called LAAMB: listen, accept, admire, model, and bless.

This model is in direct contrast to the FRAP style of relating to which many men are socialized: fix, rescue, advise (unsolicited), and project.

Because men are often taught they need to “have the answer,” or “solve the problem,” it may be hard to just sit and listen to a teenage boy speak about his experience, especially when some of his choices or decisions are problematic. Yet when a man feels a need to give unsolicited advice, tell the boy what to do, or respond from his own discomfort with the boy’s path through life, he inadvertently clips the boy’s wings.

By giving a boy the space to share his experience authentically, without judgment or interruption, by looking for positive behaviors or actions that he can appreciate, and by responding with advice or feedback only when asked, a mentor shows his faith in a boy’s ability to find his way and to access resources only when he needs them. The mentor then also models a kind of humility that is also important for a young man to experience. There is so much pressure to know, to fix, and to figure things out—seeing that we don’t always know, can’t always fix things, and don’t always need to figure things out, provides a healthy balance. More importantly, the kinds of “solutions” that come out of the FRAP model are not even what is needed some of the time. Being truly heard and seen can be a very powerful gift.

A beautiful feature of the LAAMB communication model is that, once you understand the principles, it can be done without great effort. Men can mentor simply by being with a teen, rather than what they do for them. Many men shy away from mentoring teens for fear that they won’t know what to do, preventing them from showing up and supporting boys who simply need their presence and personal connection.

While an entire course could be given on all the elements of LAAMB and FRAP, understanding these important principles provides a way to create safety and trust in any relationship.

Boys to Men New England is having its 3rd Annual Benefit Concert at Scullers Jazz Club in Boston on Sunday, April 13.  This year’s theme is “Building Community Through Mentoring.” Keynote speakers are Marty Martinez, Executive Director of the Mass Mentoring Partnership, as well as Victor Martinez and Carlos Cordero, Founders of Boys to Men Lawrence.  Headliners include Geoff Bartley, the godfather of folk, and jazz diva Tracy Clark. Performers include teens as well as adults. Tickets are $75 and can be purchased through: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/535928. Donations of any amount are welcome. Checks payable to BTMNE can be sent to BTMNE c/o Linda Marks, 3 Central Avenue, Newton, MA 02460.  For more information contact Linda at 617-913-0683 or lsmheart@aol.com

[box]Linda Marks is Board Co-Chair of Boys to Men New England. A single mom, Linda found BTMNE 6 years ago as a resource for her then 12 year old son.[/box]